In the stream of issues in Chautauqua County floats the establishment of a regional water district in the northern part of the county.
Studies have revealed insignificant groundwater capable of providing large quantities of water required to meet municipal needs. Additionally, numerous updates are needed to ensure the continuance and availability of safe drinking water for residents.
In many areas, there is not enough groundwater to develop a private well for a home, and in areas where groundwater is available, much of it is shallow and susceptible to contamination.
The north county villages of Brocton and Silver Creek, along with the towns of Portland, Pomfret, Dunkirk, Sheridan and Hanover, all support the creation of a regional system and have been meeting monthly to discuss further implementation.
Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation and the Department of Health and Human Services cooperated in the study of water supply needs in northern Chautauqua County and identified the potential development of a regional water supply program, presented to the legislature in August.
The project received $1 million in grant funding in December as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's third round of economic development awards.
Shortly before the award was announced, the legislature approved the creation of the Chautauqua County Water Agency, which is a recommending body and will consist of three county legislators and nine elected officials representing municipalities to be included in Phase 1 of the proposed water supply program.
A space was saved within the agency for the village of Fredonia, which has still not approved of joining the project.
Chadwick Bay's plan would force Fredonia's water plant to close and keeping it open "is in the best interest of the village of Fredonia and our region," said Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe.
"I want to make it clear. We are not opposed to a regional water district. We are opposed to this design," Keefe said at a November meeting of the county legislature in Mayville. "The engineer's plans submitted by Clark Patterson Lee require the closing of the Fredonia water plant, which the village board is unanimously opposed to."
Dunkirk City Council previously had questions about both the agency and water district, but eventually signed on.
The city of Dunkirk's involvement with the water district is essential, said Kathy Tampio, director of Chadwick Bay. It has it has the highest population of any involved municipality, and is the hub of the system as its main supplier.
The incoming legislature, which will be official as of Wednesday, will review the makeup of the agency's membership as later phases of the project are developed. Also, it will be possible for the village of Fredonia to join the regional water district in the future if they choose to do so.
County Executive-elect Vince Horrigan and several legislators have shown their support for the regional water provider.
"The state says the project is necessary and that's such a positive. I'm very encouraged by that," Horrigan said. "We are rapidly getting up to speed with regional solutions."
He said that after the first of the year, he will work with each municipality involved to make sure everyone has their questions answered.
"It's a must for the north county to develop a regional water supply system," said new legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan. "We have to have a safe and adequate water supply up here. It's a big area, but I believe the grant should help us. Hopefully it will become a reality."